How Nigeria can maximize its green potential for tourism development

Wale Ojo – Lanre

Wednesday 27 September 2023 was World Tourism Day with the theme: Tourism and Green Investments.
The theme is not only apt but well-suited for a year that has been characterized by global concern for the environment
One cannot underrate the negative influence and impact of the locomotion of mass traffic on a tourism environment particularly as the world is being battled by serious environmental issues like climate change, environmental degradation, pollution, and resource depletion.
Nigeria is not absolved from all these environmental challenges especially the effect of Boko Haram taking over some National Parks, shrinking of some dams, rising water levels, indiscriminate logging, poaching of fauna, criminal deforestation, Sea pollution, reckless and abject refuse disposal mannerism, and deliberate neglect of environmental obligation due to lack of awareness about environmental issues.

In the tourism sector in Nigeria, little attention is being focused on environmental issues as most tourism administrators and policymakers seem to be in the oblivion of the strong interrelation between tourism and the environment other than ‘Tourism is being explored within the perimeter of the environment
Much concern is not given to the carrying capacity of a particular site, the utilization of natural materials found within the site in the most sustainable manner that will generate employment, push out the creativity in human beings, empower the people and encourage development.
Nigeria can take several steps to maximize its green potential and enhance its tourism industry viz:
Nigeria should endure the enactment of strong legal frameworks for the conservation and preservation of its green assets. This will go a long way to ensure the concept of sustainability and a national focus on environmental issues.
This will also help Nigeria to prioritise the conservation and preservation of its natural resources, including forests, wildlife, and biodiversity as a national vision and mission to be accomplished. This can be achieved through proper enhancement of the existing national parks, protected areas, and wildlife reserves.
It should also enact strict regulations and enforcement mechanisms to prevent illegal activities such as poaching and deforestation.

Nigeria should embrace and promote sustainable tourism practices that minimize the negative impact on the environment and local communities. encourages eco-friendly accommodations, transportation, and tour operators that follow sustainable guidelines, implement waste management systems and promote recycling and energy-efficient practices in tourism zones.
Nigeria should invest in green infrastructure development, such as eco-lodges, nature trails, and observation decks that allow tourists to experience Nigeria’s natural beauty while minimizing their ecological footprint, develop sustainable transportation options such as electric or hybrid vehicles and promote cycling and walking paths.

Any attempt at exploring green assets without the involvement of the community and empowering them would be an effort in nullity, hence, Nigeria must involve local communities in the planning and management of tourism initiatives, encourage community-based tourism projects that empower residents, provide them with economic opportunities, and promote cultural preservation. This can include homestay programs, handicraft production, and cultural performances.

Nigeria should embark on strategic education and awareness creation by implementing educational programs to raise awareness about the importance of eco-tourism and environmental conservation among both tourists and local communities and provide training and capacity building for tourism operators, guides, and local communities to promote responsible and sustainable tourism practices.

Nigeria should create an aggressive, well-honed marketing and promotion strategy by developing targeted marketing campaigns to showcase Nigeria’s green potential and attract environmentally conscious tourists.
This promotional strategy and branding should highlight the country’s unique natural attractions, such as national parks, waterfalls, wildlife reserves, and coastal areas.
This could be done effectively by leveraging digital platforms and social media to reach a wider audience and promote eco-tourism initiatives.

All these cannot be positive without a well-oiled collaborative and partnering policy which will foster collaboration between government agencies, NGOs, local communities, and private sector stakeholders and seek partnerships with international organizations, Foundations and funding opportunities for green tourism initiatives.

By implementing these strategies Nigeria can maximize its green potential, protect its natural resources, and attract tourists who are interested in experiencing the country’s unique and diverse natural beauty while minimizing their impact on the environment.
These strategies and frameworks should be explored so that the essence of this year’s tourism message ‘ Tourism and Green Investments ‘ could be beneficial to us.

….Wale Ojo-Lanre is a foremost tourism advocate in Nigeria and a graduate student of Green Growth and Travelism at Hasselt University Belgium.

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